Conference article

Authority; Power and Agency in the Work of Building Transnational Sustainable Communities within the European Union

Denis Malherbe
France Business School, Tours, France

David Joseph Wellman
DePaul University, USA

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Published in: Proceedings from the 50th Societas Ethica Annual Conference 2013. Climate Change; Sustainability; and an Ethics of an Open Future. August 22-25; 2013; Soesterberg; The Netherlands

Linköping Electronic Conference Proceedings 98:11, p. 143-161

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Published: 2014-08-21

ISBN: 978-91-7519-289-5

ISSN: 1650-3686 (print), 1650-3740 (online)


The long-term ecological; financial and social sustainability of the European Union is dependent upon deepening the level of integration among not only the governments of its member states; but also among the people and the diverse communities which inhabit these states – which include their citizens; associations; local and regional representatives; educational institutions; businesses and cooperatives and the ecosystems which support them. Sustainable integration among the nation-states of the EU requires an increasing level of cooperation and connectivity on multiple levels. Such integration includes not only the monetary dimension of relations; but also the manner through which member states are linked by shared ecological; social; cultural and ethical practices. To this end; the project of this paper is an attempt to explore how the work of transnational community building within the EU is fortified and diminished by competing definitions of authority; power and agency. Its thesis is guided by the contention that the EU’s current efforts to promote integration are diminished when the principal focus of relations among member states is defined through financial instruments; institutional structures which support them; and market-oriented regulations. This paper will argue that while the financial dimension of relations among EU member states is foundational to the long-term viability of the EU; it’s long term sustainability is equally dependent on the development of learning and caring communities; shared technologies; and the acknowledgement of common ecological realities.

Section one of this paper offers some fundamental criticisms of the current state of relations between EU member states; with particular attention paid to developments and trends of the last two decades; and will rely on an analysis from the perspective of the fields of sociology of institutions and organizations; and political science. This approach will place an emphasis on examining what we view as some of the weaknesses of the prevailing “vision” guiding the way relations are defined and maintained among EU member states; which privileges market efficiency and the language of financial instruments in the practice of diplomacy among EU actors.

he second part of this paper proposes an alternative vision of what we believe the EU has the potential to become – a body of nation-states whose connectivities and sense of fiduciary responsibilities are grounded in the promotion and fortification of transnational sustainable communities; which have the capacity to meaningfully cross individual nation-state boundaries and build bridges which constructively link populations divided by language; cultural identity and perception. We propose that the language of diplomacy that could guide the EU in this direction is found within the transnational ecological crisis that all member states commonly face – one in which the power of human differences and competing narratives are diminished by the acknowledgement of the common requirements for survival: potable water; arable land and clean air. It is through this reality that member states are being invited to see in a clearer sense the limitations of an economic realpolitik view of relations among nation-states; and in its place to embrace the guiding principles of ecological realism.


Agency; authority; climate change; ecosphere; ecological realism; financial instruments; monetary. nation-state; power; realpolitik; resilience; sustainability; technology


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